Whether you’re a nationwide house building corporation, a regional builder with plans to build a local industrial park, or a home owner looking to utilise some excess garden space by building another property, changes to environmental laws are set to affect any future developments that you may have in the pipeline.
The Environment Act 2021, which contains provisions for protecting and improving the environment; brought into legislation that from November 2023 all future developments of unbuilt land must produce a minimum uplift of 10% in biodiversity, with the intention of ensuring that biodiversity is left in a “measurably better state than beforehand”. This is referred to as biodiversity net gain (BNG).
Biodiversity is any and all of the natural world, such as animals, plants, and fungi which are often severely impacted, if not destroyed by development. BNG therefore requires that as of November 2023, should any of this be displaced or destroyed due to building works or development, it shall have to be replaced in the same size (and quality) plus a further 10%.
This change will impact anyone looking to undertake building or development works and will be a requirement of all planning applications submitted after that date, ensuring that there is a plan setting out how this requirement will be met. Land affected by development will be scored for its biodiversity value according to a metric produced by Natural England.
Not only will there be a legal obligation to replace and uplift the affected biodiversity, the builder or developer will have to maintain this land for 30 years following completion of the build – no small task!
Undoubtably, this will prove a challenge for everyone but we foresee a particular problem for small or mid-sized developers, or even individuals, who will not have the means, knowledge or infrastructure in place to establish such large areas of biodiversity habitat and maintain it for three decades thereafter.
It does however bring opportunities for landowners, investors and environmental charities/organisations who are able to provide biodiverse land to developers who want to offset or discharge their BNG contributions.
If there is no suitable land for improved biodiversity at the proposed development site, then it will be possible to improve land that is further away or buy ‘biodiversity units’, such as those provided by Legacy Habitat Banks, a Lancashire based wildlife habitat management specialists, who aim to provide a solution to this problem.
Legacy Habitat are working to establish a variety of new biodiverse habitats which can then be purchased by builders, developers or individuals in such quantities as required to meet their biodiversity obligations. Furthermore, Legacy Habitat Banks will also undertake to maintain these sites following the purchase meaning that developers can move forward in the knowledge that they have complied fully with their obligations.
Whether you are a landowner, a developer or investor, BNG brings both challenges and opportunities. Please get in touch if you have any questions relating to BNG and how this may affect you legally.
We will be running an information event on this in the near future. If you would like to register your interest in attending, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.